Focus on mindfulness specifically for women

Clarifying an understanding of mindfulness is the focus of a new book from Flinders University’s Dr Leigh Burrows that identifies specific mental health empowerment and increased wellbeing for women.

Ahead of International Women’s Day – Monday March 8 – Dr Burrows says her new book Empowering Mindfulness for Women (Routledge) is aimed at those who teach mindfulness to women in educational, community or clinical settings, and also at women who want to learn mindfulness in a manner that positions them as experts in their own learning.

“I wanted to specifically address the needs of women, as I saw so many of my women students were juggling complex personal and professional lives, family, work, study, many of whom with personal challenges in their pasts which continued to play out in the future,” says Dr Burrows, who teaches mindfulness, wellbeing, trauma sensitive teaching and relational learning at Flinders University’s College of Education, Psychology and Social Work.

“The book reminds women how essential it is to make physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual space for themselves.

“I want to bring a mindfulness that is particularly suited to the lives of contemporary women.”

Written as a fiction, Empowering Mindfulness for Women is centred around a five-day intensive mindfulness course attended by eight women from different backgrounds. The reader is invited to imagine they are actively participating in the teaching and learning moments and turning points encountered in teaching and learning mindfulness around themes such as making space for mindfulness, safeguarding mindfulness for women, engendering mindfulness, mindfulness dreaming and a mandala of wisdoms.

“My aim is to give the reader an experience close to a live case of the approach I embrace in my teaching of mindfulness, wellbeing, trauma sensitive practice and relationships for learning,” explains Dr Burrows.

It’s a timely document – fitting neatly with Flinders University’s Indigenous Reconciliation Action Plan through the book’s inclusion of indigenous women’s wisdom and Aboriginal Mindfulness in the form of ‘dadirri’, a deep listening practice which is sourced in part from Miriam Rose Ungunmeer Bauman (2021 Senior Australian of the Year). Dr Burrows is introducing ‘dadirri’ into all her topics.

Stepping away from one-size-fits-all mindfulness, Dr Burrows’ person-centred mindfulness course is designed carefully to support individuals on their deep inner learning journey.

Reviewers have praised the book for cataloguing the inner life of women today, their struggles, dreams and how they’ve come to find nourishment through meditative guidance to reach a place of healing.

“More than anything, I want to help women to tap into their own inner authority and find what works for them, which is something that has not seemed to feature in regular mindfulness courses,” says Dr Burrows.

“The book is really about empowering mindfulness to help all of us – women and also men – to go beyond the limiting binaries and social restrictions of concepts of femininity and masculinity.

“If we do this, we will experience a fuller and richer consciousness that can encompass a much wider spectrum of qualities, capacities and potentialities for all people.”

Dr Burrows says mindfulness can take different forms – contemplative, philosophical, spiritual, artistic, imaginative, movement, sports, martial arts, being in nature, intimacy, cooking, gardening – that can change depending on an individual person’s nature and needs, rather than gender, to best assist their wellness and development.

Within this, Dr Burrows says mindfulness practice and philosophy needs to be “carefully curated” to fit and support each person. “People embarking on mindfulness practice need to be given ample allowance and encouragement to try a full range of different mindfulness modalities and activities.

  • Empowering Mindfulness for Women will be released on April 13. Copies of the book can now be ordered online.

Footnote: Members of the Flinders University academic, professional staff and student community are taking part in acknowledging International Women’s Day (8 March) and the #IWD 2021 theme #ChoosetoChallenge by sharing their stories online and taking part in the IWD Bedford Park activities on 9 March. See more at https://www.internationalwomensday.com/

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